Griezmann Rescues Barcelona First Leg Draw At Napoli

Barcelona’s French forward Antoine Griezmann (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg football match between SSC Napoli and FC Barcelona at the San Paolo Stadium in Naples on February 25, 2020. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Antoine Griezmann rescued a 1-1 draw for Barcelona at Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Frenchman Griezmann struck just before the hour mark for Barca in Naples after Dries Mertens had put the hosts ahead in the 30th minute with his 121st Napoli goal, equalling the club all-time top scorer Marek Hamsik.

Barcelona ended the game with 10 men after Arturo Vidal was sent off with two minutes to go after picking up two yellow cards, following an angry clash with Napoli defender Mario Rui.

Lionel Messi failed to score on his first appearance at the Stadio San Paolo where Napoli legend Diego Maradona reigned supreme three decades ago.

The 32-year-old Messi scored four goals at the weekend in Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Eibar that put the Spaniards back the top of La Liga, but could not add to his 114 Champions League goals.

The clash was the first between the two teams and also a Champions League debut for Barcelona coach Quique Setien and Napoli’s Gennaro Gattuso, who both took over after the group stage.

Messi fired over on nine minutes after combining well with Frenkie de Jong but Gattuso’s side piled the pressure on the Catalans.

Their pressing paid off on the half-hour mark, with Piotr Zielinski breaking free down the right before finding Mertens, who curled a magnificent finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

He equalled Hamsik’s record and is now six goals clear of Maradona, but was forced off in the second half after a Sergio Busquets tackle for which the Spaniard will be suspended for the second leg.

Barcelona did not waste much time in getting on level terms, as Messi and Busquets combined to send Semedo into the box in the 57th minute.

The Portuguese full-back crossed low for Griezmann to power home right-footed.

Ter Stegen denied Lorenzo Insigne with Jose Callejon also missing a chance for a second, as did Messi with eight minutes to go.

Vidal was sent off after a sliding tackle on Rui before appearing to headbutt the Napoli defender.

The Chilean will also miss the return leg at the Camp Nou on March 18.

AFP

They Have A Strong Team, Says Sarri Ahead Of Napoli Clash

Juventus’ Italian coach Maurizio Sarri looks on during the Italian Cup (Coppa Italia) round of 16 football match Juventus vs Udinese on January 15, 2020 at the Juventus stadium in Turin. AFP

 

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri said he expects an emotional return to his former club Napoli on Sunday as Lazio and Roma prepare for a derby clash in Serie A after both capital-city sides exited the Italian Cup during the week.

Sarri missed Juventus’ home game against Napoli with pneumonia in August and Sunday’s game at the Stadio San Paolo will be his first since leaving the club in 2018 before his move to Chelsea.

“It will be a tremendously difficult game, emotionally it will be particularly special. My relationship with Naples and above all the city was strong,” said Sarri, after Juve reached the Italian Cup semi-finals with a 3-1 win over Roma on Wednesday.

Juventus are top of the league with a four-point lead on second-placed Inter Milan, but Napoli — Serie A runners-up in the past two seasons — are struggling in 11th position, 14 points off the Champions League places.

“We must not look at their position in the table,” Sarri continued. “They have a strong team. They are going through a difficult time but have good players.

“There are three points at stake.”

Napoli lost 4-3 in the reverse fixture this season.

But the team are a shadow of the eye-catching side Sarri left in May 2018 to be replaced by Carlos Ancelotti.

Ancelotti helped the team maintain their runners-up position last campaign but was replaced at the troubled side by Gennaro Gattuso last month.

Gattuso has lost four of his five Serie A games in charge and the club have not won at home in the league since October 19.

But they have been boosted by booking their ticket to the Italian Cup semi-finals with a 1-0 win over in-form Lazio this week.

“We played with hunger, character and the right spirit, showing real grit, something we had been lacking up till now,” said Gattuso.

“Now, of course, we need to keep it up, to climb back up the table.”

Second-placed Inter Milan are at home against sixth-placed Cagliari this weekend, after their title bid was stalled with back-to-back draws.

Lazio — on a club-record 11-match league winning streak — are third, six points behind Juventus with a game in hand, and two adrift of Inter ahead of the Rome derby.

Paulo Fonseca’s Roma are seven points behind their city rivals in the final Champions League berth.

The teams played out a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in September, and last season had a win each.

Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio are pushing for a first Scudetto since 2000, after crashing out of the Italian Cup, which they won last season.

Flagging Atalanta, in fifth, travel to Torino, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s eighth-placed AC Milan visit Brescia on Friday looking to edge closer to the Europa League places.

Brescia striker Mario Balotelli will miss the game against his former club after being handed a two-match ban for arguing with the referee last weekend.

One to watch

Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata is desperate to end his three-match goal drought since returning from injury.

The 28-year-old scored six league goals in seven games before being sidelined for three months with a thigh injury.

It is the former Sampdoria forward’s longest stretch without scoring since his first goal for Atalanta back in November 2018.

Key stats

50 – Atalanta’s league goals scored in 20 games

27 – Napoli’s points deficit to Juventus

23 – Ciro Immobile’s league goals for Lazio this season

12 – Ronaldo’s goals in last eight games

3 – Maurizio Sarri’s seasons as Napoli coach

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Brescia v AC Milan (1945)

Saturday

SPAL v Bologna (1400), Fiorentina v Genoa (1700), Torino v Atalanta (1945)

Sunday

Inter Milan v Cagliari (1130), Hellas Verona v Lecce, Parma v Udinese, Sampdoria v Sassuolo (1400), Roma v Lazio (1700), Napoli v Juventus (1945)

AFP

Napoli Appoint Gattuso After Sacking Ancelotti

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 28, 2019 Milan’s Italian coach Gennaro Gattuso gestures during the Italian Serie A football match between Torino and AC Milan at the Grande Torino stadium in Turin. World Cup winner Gennaro Gattuso was named new Napoli coach, the club announced on December 11, 2019.
MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

 

Gennaro Gattuso on Wednesday took over as coach of Napoli after Carlo Ancelotti was sacked despite guiding them to the Champions League last 16, the troubled Serie A side announced.

Gattuso, who left AC Milan at the end of last season after failing to qualify for the Champions League, takes charge of a club who sit seventh in Serie A.

“The aim is to recoup points and get back into the Champions League positions,” said Gattuso, who won the 2006 World Cup as a player with Italy.

“We need to work hard, win back points and come through this tricky period.”

READ ALSO: Liverpool Hungry For European Glory Despite Premier League Push

The 41-year-old replaces a friend in Ancelotti, who coached Gattuso to two Champions Leagues and one Serie A title over eight years in charge of seven-time European champions Milan.

“Ancelotti is like a father to me,” he added. “He’s always been close to me and supported me. He’s won it all and I still have a lot to prove.”

Former Rangers midfielder Gattuso joins Napoli at a difficult time despite their arrival in Monday’s draw for the knockout stages of Europe’s top competition.

Last season’s Serie A runners-up sit 17 points behind league leaders Inter Milan.

More worryingly they are eight behind fourth-placed Cagliari, who hold the final spot for next season’s Champions League, and have been engulfed in a row between the players and owner Aurelio De Laurentiis.

De Laurentiis ordered the players into a week-long training camp after defeat by big rivals Roma early last month — a decision with which Ancelotti publicly disagreed — but they rebelled and were hit with a massive fine that incurred the wrath of Players’ union FIFPRO.

Media reports in the United Kingdom suggest both Arsenal and Everton are keen to hire Ancelotti, who has won three Champions Leagues as a coach, after sacking Unai Emery and Marco Silva respectively.

AFP

Napoli Sack Ancelotti Despite Champions League Victory

Napoli’s Italian head coach Carlo Ancelotti attends the UEFA Champions League Group E football match Napoli vs Genk on December 10, 2019 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Carlo Ancelotti has been sacked by Napoli despite taking the Serie A side to the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday with a 4-0 win over Genk.

“Napoli has decided to relieve Carlo Ancelotti of his role as first team coach,” the Italian side said in a statement.

Tuesday’s win over Genk, which saw Napoli finish second in Group E, one point behind Liverpool, broke a nine-match winless run that came amid dressing room unrest and friction between the club, Ancelotti and the players.

Former AC Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso is the favourite to take over at Napoli, who finished second behind champions Juventus last season but are miles off the pace this year.

They sit seventh in the Italian top flight on 21 points, a whopping 17 points behind league leaders Inter Milan and more worryingly eight behind fourth-placed Cagliari, who hold the final spot for next season’s Champions League.

On Monday Ancelotti told reporters that “a coach’s suitcase is always ready” ahead of Tuesday’s match, and as speculation ramped up over the 60-year-old’s future at the southern club he ruled out stepping down after Tuesday’s win.

“Resignation? I have never resigned in my life and I never will,” he said. “My future? The team management will make its assessment.

The club has been in turmoil this season as club owner Aurelio De Laurentiis sank into a bitter row with his players following a series of disappointing results.

The squad refused to bow to De Laurentiis’ demand they be confined to a week-long training camp in November, reportedly receiving a collective deduction to their wages of 2.5 million euros ($2.7 million) for their disobedience.

Union FIFPro said they would back the players against “further abuse and intimidation”, calling De Laurentiis’ decision to fine his squad “unjustified”.

Ancelotti, who won three Champions League titles as a coach, twice with AC Milan and once with Real Madrid, replaced Maurizio Sarri in July 2018.

He guided the team to a runners-up finish in Serie A last season, when they missed out on the Champions League last 16 on goal difference to eventual winners Liverpool.

“I can’t pretend, the team doesn’t give what it could give,” Ancelotti said on Monday.

“In Europe, we have seen another Napoli, the one I would like to see in the league as well. I am looking for solutions to get out of this difficult period,” he added.

They are without a win in seven Serie A games since October 19 and next play Parma on Saturday.

AFP

Napoli Thump Genk To Reach Champions League Last 16

Napoli’s Polish forward Arkadiusz Milik (3rdR) celebrates with Napoli’s Spanish forward Jose Callejon (L) after opening the scoring during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match Napoli vs Genk on December 10, 2019 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples.
Tiziana FABI / AFP

 

Arkadiusz Milik fired Napoli into the knockout stages of the Champions League on Tuesday with a first half hat-trick that helped see off Genk 4-0.

Pole Milik opened the scoring in the third minute and struck twice more before the break to end a nine-match winless run and ensure passage from Group E in second place, a point behind Liverpool.

READ ALSO: Liverpool Survive Salzburg Test To Reach Champions League Last 16

Dries Mertens scored the other goal from the penalty spot with 15 minutes remaining.

AFP

Champion’s League: Lovren’s Equaliser Spares Liverpool’s Blushes Against Napoli

Liverpool’s Croatian defender Dejan Lovren (L) celebrates scoring equalising goal during the UEFA Champions league Group E football match between Liverpool and Napoli at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 27, 2019.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Liverpool were made to wait to secure their place in the last 16 of the Champions League as Napoli secured a vital point with a 1-1 draw at Anfield on Wednesday.

Dries Mertens threatened to inflict Liverpool’s first home defeat in the Champions or Premier League since April 2017 with a sweetly struck opener midway through the first half.

Dejan Lovren’s header protected that proud unbeaten run, but the holders still need to get at least a point away to Salzburg on December 10 to secure their passage into the last 16.

Napoli remain a point behind Liverpool but are well-placed to reach the knockout stages as they host winless Genk in two weeks’ time.

The Italians had travelled to Merseyside in disarray with coach Carlo Ancelotti seemingly on the brink of being sacked after a slump in Serie A.

President Aurelio De Laurentiis has also threatened to sell the entire squad and take legal action against the players after they refused his orders to be confined to a week-long training camp earlier this month.

However, the Italians are the only side to have beaten the European champions this season and proved a thorn in Liverpool’s side again.

Jurgen Klopp’s men were unsettled by the early loss of Fabinho to injury and were unhappy when the visitors opened the scoring on 21 minutes.

Mertens leaned into Virgil van Dijk as the Dutchman headed clear and was left on the ground holding his side.

Napoli played on and when the ball was played forward again Mertens was unmarked to run through before beating Alisson Becker from a narrow-angle.

After a VAR review for a potential foul and offside, the goal was allowed to stand and there were a few more nervy moments for the home fans before Van Dijk got back to his feet and was able to continue.

READ ALSO: Barcelona Secure Champions League Last 16 Spot

Klopp grew increasingly frustrated on the touchline as Liverpool failed to find their rhythm before the break.

However, a talking to from the German-inspired a second-half turnaround.

Kalidou Koulibaly bailed out his goalkeeper with a clearance off the line from Roberto Firmino after Alex Meret dropped a simple cross into the box.

Mohamed Salah was left out of Saturday’s late win at Crystal Palace due to an ongoing ankle problem and again looked far from his best.

The Egyptian snapped at his best chance from Andy Robertson’s cross before Firmino headed another good opportunity wide.

It seemed a matter of time before the equaliser arrived, but when it did it came from an unlikely source as Lovren rose above Mertens to power home James Milner’s corner.

Again a VAR check was needed as Mertens this time claimed to be the victim of a push, but the goal stood.

Liverpool have made a habit of scoring late to soar clear at the top of the Premier League, but there was no late drama this time round to leave the Reds with work to do in Austria.

AFP

Klopp ‘Not Worried’ Over Salah’s Fitness Ahead Of Napoli Match

A file photo of Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp. Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he has no concerns about Mohamed Salah’s fitness ahead of their Champions League clash with Napoli.

Salah was an unused substitute in the 2-1 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday after missing training with an ankle problem.

“Mo Salah looks really good,” Klopp said at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday. “I’m not worried about it.”

Klopp also provided an update on the fitness of defender Joel Matip, who has been sidelined with a knee injury.

“Joel is improving but is some time away. There will be a scan this week and then we will see how it is.”

Klopp said he had plans to cope with Liverpool’s fixture pile-up over the next few weeks.

Their involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar, plus their progress in the League Cup, mean Liverpool have been forced to play two games within 24 hours of each other, over 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometres) apart in mid-December.

“We have plans for everything, as you can imagine, and we change them constantly. I have two smartphones and when one of them is ringing it is really rare it is good news,” said Klopp.

“You only get the messages when a player is not fine, so then we have to make new plans and we don’t know exactly how many players we’ll have to train.

“We know in the long term what we have to do, we know that’s all set. The athletic part of the sessions, we try to adapt to the specific situation of the players. The tactical things depend on the games we play.”

Victory over Carlo Ancelotti’s side on Wednesday would ensure defending champions Liverpool finish top of Group E with a game to spare but Klopp said he could not afford to look past the match.

Napoli are the only side to have beaten Liverpool this season but are currently seventh in Serie A.

“The biggest mistake we could make is that we have won it already and what would happen if we win it,” Klopp said.

“These things are not in our mind. Of course we try to win the game, it would be massive for us after the start we had. Napoli are a dangerous opponent.

“There are two weeks between tomorrow night and the Salzburg game (final match of the group) and we have three games in between. Why should I think about the Salzburg game now?”

Balotelli Scores First Brescia Goal In Defeat To Napoli

Brescia’s Italian forward Mario Balotelli (Front) shoots a free kick as (FromL) Napoli’s Spanish forward Jose Callejon, Napoli’s Spanish defender Fabian Ruiz and Napoli’s Belgian forward Dries Mertens jump to defend during the Italian Serie A football match Napoli vs Brescia on September 29, 2019 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

Mario Balotelli scored his first goal for new club Brescia but the promoted northerners still fell to a 2-1 defeat to Napoli in Serie A action on Sunday.

The 29-year-old Italian international headed in after 67 minutes in his second match for his hometown club having missed four games because of a ban he incurred with former club Marseille.

First-half goals by Dries Mertens and Kostas Manolas ensured Napoli took all three points after their midweek loss to Cagliari, to boost confidence ahead of their Champions League trip to Belgian club Genk.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli stay fourth with 12 points from six games, six behind league leaders Inter Milan who beat Sampdoria 3-1 on Saturday.

Inter have a maximum 18 points from six games — two ahead of Juve — after winning their first six league matches for the first time since the 1966-67 season.

Juventus beat SPAL 2-0 to stay second with Atalanta third — a point ahead of Napoli — after thrashing Sassuolo 4-1 on Saturday.

“Suffering is natural in these games if you don’t kill it off with 3-0 and then concede a goal, it all opens up again,” Ancelotti told DAZN.

“But all in all I’m satisfied.

“We played an excellent first half, the second was less impressive, but it was very hot and the players were tired.”

Balotelli carried his daughter Pia, who lives in Naples with her mother and was decked out in the Napoli colours, onto the pitch at the San Paolo Stadium.

The home side were without Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly who has been given a two-match ban for his red card in the Cagliari game.

Ancelotti’s side went ahead after 13 minutes. Mertens connected with a Jose Callejon cross to blast in his 114th goal in a Napoli jersey — one shy of Argentine legend Diego Maradona’s total from 1984 to 1991. Slovak Marek Hamsik leads both with 121.

The 32-year-old Belgian international has been in form this season with four goals in five Serie A games. He also converted a penalty in the 2-0 Champions League win over holders Liverpool.

Manolas thought he had scored on 19 minutes but the goal was ruled out after a VAR review. The Greek defender did head in just before the break off a Mertens corner.

Napoli’s tempo dipped after the break allowing the promoted side to get back into the game.

There with a nervy final half hour after Balotelli got his head to a Sandro Tonali corner to serve notice to Italy coach Roberto Mancini of his ambitions to play Euro 2020.

It was his first goal in Italy in four years but Balotelli’s losing streak to Napoli stretched to eight games — having never won while playing for both Milan clubs, Manchester City, Nice and now Brescia.

Brescia slip to 14th in the table after their fourth defeat in six games.

AS Roma play in Lecce later on Sunday with AC Milan hosting Fiorentina.

AFP

Champions League: Drama As Holders Liverpool, Chelsea Lose

Napoli’s Belgian forward Dries Mertens celebrates after scoring a penalty during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match Napoli vs Liverpool on September 17, 2019 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

Holders Liverpool began their defence of the Champions League trophy with a defeat against Napoli on Tuesday, while one missed spot-kick condemned Chelsea to defeat against Valencia and another came to Barcelona’s rescue.

Liverpool survived a 1-0 defeat in Naples in the group stage last season to go on and win their sixth European Cup, and this time a 2-0 reverse at the San Paolo made them the first reigning champions to lose their opening game in the competition since 1994.

Both sides had chances in the Group E clash before the hosts won a late penalty with barely 10 minutes remaining when Jose Callejon went down under an Andy Robertson challenge.

Dries Mertens beat Adrian from 12 yards and substitute Fernando Llorente — who played for Tottenham Hotspur against Liverpool in last season’s final — then took advantage of a rare defensive lapse by Virgil van Dijk to make it 2-0 in stoppage time.

“I don’t think it’s a penalty. What can I say, for me, it is clear and obvious no penalty,” Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said of the spot-kick to BT Sport. “We played a lot of good football but didn’t finish it off.”

Hat-trick hero Haaland 

Liverpool must now bounce back in two weeks when they host Austrian champions Salzburg, who made a stunning return to the group stage as teenage forward Erling Braut Haaland netted a hat-trick in a 6-2 demolition of Genk.

Salzburg had fallen in the qualifying rounds in the last seven campaigns but finally progressed this season to the group stage for the first time since 1994-95.

Haaland, the teenage English-born Norwegian striker whose father Alf-Inge played for Manchester City, gave Salzburg a second-minute lead and netted twice more before half-time.

Aged just 19 years and 58 days, Haaland is the third-youngest player to score a Champions League hat-trick behind Wayne Rooney and Raul, according to sports statisticians Opta.

The South Korean Hwang Hee-Chan and Dominik Szoboszlai also struck before the break for Salzburg, while captain Andreas Ulmer completed the rout in the second half.

Jhon Lucumi and Tanzanian striker Mbwana Samatta scored for the Belgian champions.

Last season’s Europa League winners Chelsea ensured it was two defeats out of two on the night for English sides as they lost 1-0 at home to Valencia.

The Spaniards scored in the 74th minute when a Dani Parejo free-kick was converted by Rodrigo Moreno. Chelsea were given a chance to rescue a draw when Daniel Wass was penalised for handball in the box, but Ross Barkley’s 87th-minute penalty hit the bar and went over.

“It’s a harsh lesson of Champions League football, a game we’ve played pretty well in and we lose it,” said Chelsea boss Frank Lampard. “The good thing is we have five more games to turn it around.”

Ajax impress 

Also in Group H, last season’s semi-finalists Ajax claimed an impressive 3-0 home win over Lille with two of their newest signings among the goals.

Quincy Promes headed the Dutch champions in front and the Mexican Edson Alvarez doubled their lead early in the second half before Nicolas Tagliafico sealed the win.

After a patchy start to the season, Barcelona will be relieved to escape from their trip to Borussia Dortmund with a 0-0 draw as Lionel Messi returned from injury as a second-half substitute.

The home side will feel they should have won, but Marco Reus had a second-half penalty saved before Julian Brandt hit the bar late on.

“We played brilliantly in the second half, and it feels a bit like we have lost two points,” Dortmund defender Mats Hummels told Sky.

Those two appear well placed already to progress from Group F after Inter Milan needed a stoppage-time Nicolo Barella goal to rescue a 1-1 draw against rank outsiders Slavia Prague.

Nigerian forward Peter Olayinka put Slavia ahead in the 63rd minute, only for Barella to level in the second minute of stoppage time after a Stefano Sensi free-kick hit the bar.

In Group G, RB Leipzig won 2-1 at Benfica with Timo Werner bagging a brace before Haris Seferovic pulled one back.

Earlier, Memphis Depay’s penalty gave Lyon a 1-1 draw at home to Zenit Saint-Petersburg after Iranian striker Sardar Azmoun opened the scoring.

AFP

Napoli Beat Champions Liverpool In Champions League Opener

Hirving Lozano (L) and Joel Matip go for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match Napoli vs Liverpool on September 17, 2019, at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

 

 

Dries Mertens and Fernando Llorente scored late goals as Napoli defeated holders Liverpool 2-0 in Tuesday’s opening round of Champions League group stage matches.

Mertens converted a penalty on 82 minutes and Llorente added a second in stoppage time as Napoli gained a measure of revenge for last season’s 1-0 loss at Anfield that denied the Italians a spot in the knockout rounds.

Details shortly…

Napoli’s Llorente ‘Desires Revenge’ In Liverpool Rematch

Napoli’s Spanish forward Fernando Llorente attends a press conference on September 16, 2019 at the SSC Napoli training Center in Castel Volturno, near Naples, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League football match between Napoli and Liverpool. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Fernando Llorente warned he was looking for revenge on Liverpool in Napoli’s Champions League opener on Tuesday, after being beaten by the Reds in last season’s final with former club Tottenham.

The Spanish striker, 34, signed a two-year deal with Carlo Ancelotti’s side in the summer after being released by Tottenham and is looking for some payback for Spurs’ defeat in Madrid.

“It was very painful to lose the final, there is a desire for revenge, yes, but it is especially the opportunity to show that we can be at the level of a team as strong as Liverpool,” Llorente told reporters in Naples.

Liverpool have reached the last two Champions League finals, beating Tottenham in the Spanish capital in June after losing to Real Madrid 12 months earlier.

But Jurgen Klopp’s side lost their opener last season 1-0 in Napoli thanks to a late Lorenzo Insigne winner, and Ancelotti said his side have learned from their mistakes last season, when they failed to advance from a tough group that also included Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

“The goal is to pass the group stage, we start against the European champions who are on full points in the Premier League, they are favourites and will be a difficult test, but very exciting.

“Liverpool have grown … but Napoli have also grown and have more quality.”

Three-time Champions League winning coach Ancelotti admitted that Liverpool was  linked to some of his “biggest disappointments”, like the 1984 European Cup final lost as a player with Roma or the famous 2005 final in Istanbul as coach of AC Milan.

However he also said that Liverpool were there for “some of my greatest joys, like the 2007 final (also won as Milan coach)”.

“Playing at Anfield is always a unique experience, and I hope that it will the same for us at the San Paolo,” the 60-year-old added.

“Last season they lost their three away matches but I think this time they will be more solid and careful away from home.”

AFP

UPDATED: Arsenal Beat Napoli, Qualify For Europa League Semis

Arsenal Beat Napoli, Qualify For Europa League Semis
Arsenal’s French striker Alexandre Lacazette (C) celebrates with Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (L) and French midfielder Matteo Guendouzi after opening the scoring during the UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg football match against Napoli on April 18, 2019 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. Carlo Hermann / AFP

 

Alexandre Lacazette scored the only goal as Arsenal dispatched Napoli 1-0 on Thursday to advance to the Europa League semi-finals 3-0 on aggregate.

Lacazette’s stunning 36th-minute free-kick put the English club through to a final four meeting with Spanish side Valencia.

The exit of Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli means no Italian clubs are left in European competition this season.

READ ALSOChelsea Defeat Slavia Prague To Reach Europa League Semis

Unai Emery’s side were never troubled by the Italians despite the heated atmosphere in the Stadio San Paolo, even after losing departing midfielder Aaron Ramsey to a hamstring injury after half an hour.

Napoli had turned up the pressure early with a chance to break through after 17 minutes with Kalidou Koulibaly going on the counter-attack, racing up the pitch to cross to Jose Callejon but Petr Cech closed down the Spaniard’s weak effort.

Ramsey limped off after 33 minutes with Henrikh Mkhitaryan coming on for the Welsh international.

The Armenian promptly set up Lacazette who was awarded a free-kick after being brought down by Piotr Zielinski.

Lacazette whipped the ball in from 25 metres past a motionless Alex Meret in the Napoli goal.

Emery now faces a reunion with former club Valencia, 5-1 aggregate winners over fellow Spaniards Villarreal, as he targets a fourth Europa League title.

The final will be in Baku on May 29.

AFP